It didn’t start out as much — just a free kick from near midfield.
By TODD ENGLE
Special to The Star
The ball hit the turf, took a big bounce, and West Virginia freshman Ashley Lawrence got just a piece of it.
That little touch sent the ball into the net and gave the Mountaineers a 1-0 victory over Oklahoma State in the final of the Big 12 women’s soccer championship Sunday at Swope Soccer Village.
“It was a ball sent in, we were all crashing. I just kept running through it and I just put my foot on it and prayed, basically,” Lawrence said. “We had a lot of opportunities, and knew eventually the ball was going to end up in the net. We just had to keep pressuring and we pulled through.”
It was the Mountaineers’ first Big 12 tournament title, and the fourth postseason conference tournament title in school history. The other three came as members of the Big East Conference. West Virginia has won both regular-season titles since joining the Big 12.
Oklahoma State, 9-6-6, had a prime opportunity to open the scoring when sophomore Madison Mercado was fouled inside the 18-yard box 13 minutes into the match.
Mercado took the penalty kick, but it missed just outside the left post.
“She’s the only kid who went and took the ball,” Oklahoma State coach Colin Carmichael said. “She wanted it. I think as a coach we’ve got three or four kids who can take them, and you kind of look for who wants it. She went straight for the ball and took it. I don’t blame Maddie for that. She responded and had a great game.”
Mercado set up at least three prime scoring opportunities. She had one shot sail just high and another turned away by West Virginia goalkeeper Sara Keane.
Ultimately, West Virginia, 16-3-2, kept the ball out of the net, just like it had done throughout the tournament.
“We just knew we had to hold it down in the back, because you can’t lose if they can’t score on you,” freshman defender Carly Black said.
West Virginia’s Frances Silva, a Blue Valley North graduate, was chosen the tournament’s most outstanding offensive player after scoring all three of the team’s goals in the first two tournament games.
More than that, she was happy for the opportunity to play in her hometown.
“It’s just been great, being able to have a huge chunk of my family here and just being able to be around these people in Kansas City,” Silva said. “It’s really exciting to look out and see the Kansas City skyline from your hotel, and I’m glad we were able to win it here.”